Welcome to the last post in the Busy at Home Series. I’ve been excited to share this one since I planned it a month ago. You can catch up by reading the posts below or go straight to the tips!
I used to live in shame about the condition of my house and the chaos in my life. These are 12 strategies that have changed my home, my attitude, and my life. I will never have it all together, but I’ve realized I don’t have to! I just need to keep things functioning smoothly enough that life can move forward without undue stress and frustration.
I want to share with you some habits that have changed my life for the better. Pick one or two to try out this week and let me know how it goes! Most of these habits aren’t original; I didn’t invent some magic system. Instead, these are tips I’ve learned from experience, friends, or a variety of resources.
1) Go to bed
This is a good one, right! Get at least eight hours of sleep in your bed, not on the couch. Going to bed will make you twice as productive tomorrow, since you won’t be dragging and yawning. Plus you’ll be nicer and that automatically makes your home more peaceful and productive.
If you’re the mom of a newborn, I’m sorry this one is probably impossible. Do the best you can, my friend. The day will come when this will apply to you again- I promise!
2) Wake up before your family
Almost any list you read will include this strategy, because it’s that important. Getting up before your family makes SUCH a big difference in the day. This strategy means you have time to shower in peace before anybody asks you for anything! This is empowering because you take care of yourself before you have to take care of anyone else. In these early moments, do what makes your soul feel settled.
I typically get up an hour or more before my son to get ready, drink hot chocolate, and read my Bible. If you’re not a morning person, getting up 15 minutes earlier is better than nothing. There have been a few times when I’ve slept in and let my son, Noah, wake me up. Those days are spent in reaction mode, trying to squeeze in self-care between numerous requests from my 3-year-old.
3) Establish a Weekly Routine
Give each day a focus. This is mine:
This helps me ensure that I take care of all the important parts of my life. It’s just a guide; it doesn’t mean I won’t meet a friend for lunch on a Wednesday or that I only write on Thursday.
I’m in an interesting season of life when I’m a part-time stay at home mom, part-time work from home mom, and a part-time working mom. My weekly schedule and how I implement it will be different from your ideal. And that’s okay! Think about the most important areas of your life and designate a day to focus on them- even the slightest bit of attention to this will make a big difference.
This idea came from FlyLady. Here’s her article about it.
4) Focus on the next 3
On busy days, do you have an ongoing overwhelming dialogue of a thousand things to do? I do and it can be paralyzing. Instead of making a to-do list of 35 things, I just write the next 3 I’m going to do. I finish those three tasks, then write three more. If there are tasks I absolutely have to complete, I’ll write those on the back of the paper and move them into the list on the front as I go.
This is also my go-to strategy for bad depression days. It’s hard to turn off the anxiety of thinking about the next eleven tasks while I’m struggling to just pick out clothes for the day. So on those days, my next 3 might look something like this:
5) Use a Timer
This is a revolutionary strategy (also from FlyLady).
Whatever task you need to do, set a timer for 15 minutes and work on it. When the timer goes off, stop.
Take a break. Respond to a text. Whatever.
If you need another 15 minutes to work on the task, repeat the steps above.
You will be amazed how much you can get done in 15 minutes. We let tasks grow in our minds until we dread them because we think they’ll take so long we’ll never be able to get them done. But in reality, it might only take 15 minutes. Or less.
Seriously, time yourself the next time you fold and put away a load of laundry. It’ll probably take you less than 10 minutes.
6) Randomize your to-do list with dice
This is maybe my favorite of all the tips.
Make a list of 6 tasks you need to work on. You can list the same task twice, too. Example:
Then either roll a real die (if you have one) or a Dice app (what I use). Work 10 minutes on the task beside the number you rolled. After 10 minutes, stop and roll again. It’s cheesy, but it totally helps me get things done!
7) Complete 3 Dailies and 3 Weeklies
I’m catching on that I like to work in groups of three.
Remember we’re focusing on creating a well-functioning home, not a museum of household perfection. With that in mind, list the top 3 things that you have to do every day to keep your house running. Just three!
My dailies are dishes, laundry, and trash.
I don’t need to actually take the trash out everyday, but I need to check the little trashcans in the house or they’re an overflowing pile before I notice it. (Remember how I’m comfortable with mess?!)
Every day, be sure to do *something* to tackle your 3 dailies.
Now think of three things that need to be done weekly to keep your home functioning and inviting.
My weeklies are floors, bathrooms, and meal planning.
Again, yours may be different. You may be cringing that I made bathrooms a weekly instead of a daily. In that case, you’re probably not my target audience here.
I’d be lying to you if I said my whole house gets vacuumed once a week. That’s the goal, though, and by setting the goal it happens more than it did previously!
Simplifying your wardrobe means fewer items to wash, dry, and put away.
Simplifying your meals means easier meal planning and preparation.
Simplifying your belongings means fewer items to dust, organize, or cram in a closet.
Simplifying your schedule means more time to do what matters.
Things don’t have to complicated or impressive to be fulfilling.
9) Say No
Whole books have been written on this topic. But seriously, say no to some things. Of course your house is a mess if you’re only there to sleep. Of course you feel frazzled if you’re always running from one thing to the next.
God tells us to take care of our husbands, our children, and our homes (Titus 2:4-5)
Everything else is secondary.
10) Say Yes
Say yes to fun! Say yes to things that feed your spirit! Say yes to things that bond your family together!
Saying yes to the right things fills your joy tank. And that makes everything easier- even laundry.
11) Play defense
Try to stop the mess before it starts.
Put things up instead of putting them down.
Keep the dishwasher empty so dishes can go straight in there instead of piling in the sink.
Skip buying items you don’t need, instead of collecting them and then donating them in a year or so.
12) Focus on function
There are enough things to clean in a home to keep us busy every minute of every day of every year. And that would be an awful life. Having guilt hanging over your head about a messy house also creates an awful life.
Do what helps your home and family function. Then do whatever else your schedule and energy allows. And let the rest go.
For example, the top of my fridge is always a big pile of paper:
It doesn’t create any added stress for us (usually) and I’m fine inviting people over in spite of it. So it stays. And I don’t feel guilty. In fact, I only occasionally even notice it.
However, this overflowing laundry basket affects my family:
Someone will definitely need something from this basket soon and digging through it will cause frustration. So the laundry takes priority over the top of the fridge.
I have heard from so many of you through comments and emails during this series. You and I are among a tribe of struggling homemakers around the world. You are among friends here. I’m just a fellow struggling homemaker, humbly offering some ideas that have worked for me.
These strategies can empower you to move beyond the guilt of a messy house and the chaos of a messy life. They have changed my life for the better, and I hope you find help through them too!
I’d love to hear from you: Do you already use any of these strategies? Which one do you think would be the easiest to start?
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